Cinefile: I swear it's the truth

The DocAviv film festival makes it possible to learn something new and enjoy yourself.

docaviv 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
docaviv 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
People may think of documentary films as dour and depressing, but this year's lineup at DocAviv, the international documentary film festival in Tel Aviv, is anything but. This lively festival, which runs through May 16, features more than 50 foreign and Israeli documentaries to be screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Tel Aviv Port, plus a number of special events with a party atmosphere. The screenings at the port sound like a lot of fun. Three films will be shown over the course of three nights in open-air screenings. New York, 1977: The Coolest Year in Hell is about a chaotic time when new kinds of music were catching on: Blondie and the Ramones on the downtown scene, Studio 54 and disco in midtown Manhattan, and hip-hop and rap uptown. Gogol Bordello - Non-Stop Party offers both a behind-the-scenes and center stage look at the cult gypsy punk band, during the years 2001 to 2006. Rise Up, a documentary about the reggae scene today in the Jamaican slums, follows three aspiring musicians as they try to make it. Both the Israeli and international competitions feature films on a wide variety of subjects. Humorless movies on politics are definitely not on the program. In the Israeli competition, films include: Stretch Marks, one woman's video diary of her sexuality during pregnancy; The Worst Company in the World, about a bunch of bespectacled, divorced men who work in a failing insurance agency; Ida's Dance Club, the story of a ballroom dancing competition for retirees; and Long Distance, a glimpse into the lives of foreign workers in Tel Aviv through the phone conversations they have on a public telephone with loved ones back home . Apart from the competition, there will be several special screenings of Israeli films. Azi Aiyma (Come Mother) is about an elderly Israeli woman who attends a reunion of her classmates from an elementary school in a remote Moroccan village. If you've noticed Israel's need to "go green," then be sure to check out Crossroads, which follows three loosely connected Israelis who take a cross-country trip hoping to find signs of local ecological progress. In the International Competition, highlights include: Carmen Meets Borat, the story of a young gypsy woman who lives in the Romanian village where Borat was filmed and wants to sue the filmmakers because she feels her family was ridiculed; The Bug Trainer, about Ladislas Starewitch, the man known as the Walt Disney of Europe; and Superman of Malegaon, a look at residents of an Indian village who eke out a living making parodies of Bollywood musicals. There will also be three screenings of a foreign film that was banned in Israel. If you want to know which film it is, you'll have to show up to find out. Every Little Step, to be shown out of competition, is a highly praised documentary about a revival of the Broadway musical, A Chorus Line. Fuel examines America's dependence on foreign oil. And, Anna: 211, is about violence against journalists in Russia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, 211 journalists have been killed, among them Anna Politkovskaya, a high-profile crusader against corruption. For music lovers, there are three midnight screenings of documentaries with you in mind: Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story; Say My Name, about female hip-hop musicians in the Bronx; and CSNY: Déjà Vu, about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's recent reunion tour. Other special programs include: SexyDocs, which features Xaveria Hollander: The Happy Hooker; a spotlight on documentaries from Taiwan; DocArt, featuring several films about art, including a biography of Chaim Soutine; Profiles of Our Times, with films about contemporary figures, such as Amos Oz - Straight into the Summer Sun; a tribute to the American PBS television series American Masters, with documentaries about such artists as Leonard Bernstein, Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon and Alfred Hitchcock; and DocFood, a photography exhibit, panel discussion and special screenings of films about restaurants. Whether you go for the films or music, food or the heavier fare, intriguing documentaries abound at this year's DocAviv. DocAviv 2009 runs through May 16. For complete scheduling information, visit